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Stefano Pioliís Milan have regressed since returning to action from the World Cup break and Matt Santangelo explains what they need to end their bad run of form.

Prior to the pause for World Cup competition, Milan suffered a few results difficult to stomach in both the defeat to Torino and the miserable draw to the lowly newly promoted Cremonese.

The club did manage a late win over Fiorentina before the stoppage, but the manner in which it was achieved raised some questions about what the second half of the season would hold for the Rossoneri and their hopes of repeating as champions of Italy.

As the recent run of matches to kick off the new year have shown, the concerns were valid as noticeable regression in the collective play has since sent Stefano Pioliís men spiralling of late.

Aside from the narrow, and offensively wasteful, victory over Salernitana, Milan squandered three points at home to Roma, bowed out to 10-man Torino in the Coppa Italia, drew Lecce away and were absolutely throttled by rivals Inter in the Italian Super Cup. So, what has gone wrong for Milan and why have performances soured?

For starters, injuries have certainly caught up, none more apparent than Mike Maignan.

The Frenchman, who housed top goalkeeping honours in the Italian top flight last year as a crucial component to the title, has been sidelined for four months now, leaving Ciprian Tatarusanu to handle responsibility as the last line of defence.

No disrespect to the Romanian veteran, but every shot that heads towards his goal has fans cringing and is contributing towards the defensive back lineís accompanying poor performances.

On set pieces, as shown in the two goals relinquished in the Roma draw, defenders are falling well short of their assignments and lack the confidence to do their job at the moment. That certainly cannot fall all on Tatarusanu though.

Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu forged a superb pairing last season and were to credit for the run of stainless clean sheet results Maignan had in his name, but lately, the two are beaten far too often and easily in situations you cannot put a foot wrong.

Collectively, the back line is conceding goals far too cheaply and at an alarming rate that has forced Pioliís hand to at least rotate in the likes of Simon Kjaer and Malick Thiaw in order to re-establish some semblance of stability in the back.

If there is an inability to lean on the defence to keep the opposition in check, then the attacking component has to be there in order to compensate; that has not been the case at all.

The attacking strategy has become far too predictable. Swinging the ball wide for Rafael Le„o in hopes of a singular moment of brilliance to unlock the game is not working as often as it did last year, and Theo Hernandezís trailblazing runs are few and far between.

The left-flank dependence Milan have to drum up consistent chances has caught up and has left Olivier Giroud without much else to feed off, though his post-World Cup play has left a lot to be desired.

Combined with the well-documented failure of Charles De Ketelaere to launch after his big switch from Club Brugge last summer, and Divock Origiís already head-scratching injury record, there are very few answers up front right now for Pioli to rely upon. For as prolific as Le„o is, and how game-changing he can be, there must be someone else who can spur the attack on and serve as a spark when the Portuguese winger is being blanketed with multiple defenders.

This, among other aspects of his job, is where Pioli is currently falling short. His substitutes seldom galvanize the team, and the edges gained last year by winning 50/50 battles, challenges or the flawless execution of the fundamentals are lacking at the moment.

Despite sitting second in the table, Milan are in a delicate moment that requires an immediate response on Tuesday in Rome against Lazio, a match that will ultimately ask a lot of a group who must show the right character and resolve to reclaim control of their season.